Employee Spotlight: UX Team Lead Susana Wessling
Our Employee Spotlight interview series continues, this time featuring Susana Wessling, the UX team lead. As a VPN service provider, user experience is essential to us, and Susana plays a crucial role in ensuring that our customers have a seamless and enjoyable experience while using our product.
Join us in this edition as we delve into Susana’s background, her passion for design, and discuss what it takes to become a successful UX designer.
Can you tell us about your background and experience in UX design?
I found UX by luck, actually. I did my Bachelors in Painting at the University of Lisbon and my Masters in Contemporary Art Practice at Edinburgh University. After finishing my master’s, I was looking for my next project, and a friend recommended a company that was building a travel-themed web app and needed a designer. I had done some graphic and web design work before, and it was a topic I was very interested in. So I applied for the job and did some courses on UI UX basics, and the rest is history.
What exactly do you do here at Atlas VPN?
As a Design Lead, I coordinate the workflows between my team and the different development teams and stakeholders. That includes working on ongoing features and campaigns, researching how to improve user experience in our app and website, and proposing changes.
Has your role differed at all since joining?
I joined Atlas VPN a little over two years ago as a Senior UX Designer. My role then was to introduce a design system for Atlas VPN, redesign the website and parts of the apps, and set processes to develop and maintain a pattern library for our product. I took over as team lead after our previous lead left last autumn. Since then, my job has been a lot less hands-on in terms of day-to-day design processes and a lot more focused on managing the team’s inner workings and looking at the possibilities for the future of Atlas VPN.
What are essential skills for a UX/UI designer to have?
I look outside of the basic skills (user research, wireframe, design, prototype). An essential quality of a designer in this environment is the ability to work in a team. Like with any form of creative work, it’s easy to get attached to any solution you come up with, but one person cannot and should not presume to be able to see it all. So, having the ability to take in different points of view and collaborate with their teammates makes a big difference in the outcome.
Can you tell us about a particularly successful or innovative design solution you or your team have implemented for Atlas VPN apps?
I’m particularly proud of the pattern design system we created for Atlas VPN over the last year. It’s not particularly noticeable for our users, but it allowed us to release multiple languages seamlessly and to be much faster in design processes.
How do you measure the success and impact of your designs?
User Experience will always be about the experience that the users have when using our app. And there are many ways to look into that. There are sales, installs, and conversions, but there’s also customer feedback and the number of tickets for the support team. There are many measures one can take to look at how happy or unhappy users are, and which ones to look at really depend on the task in question.
What do you find the most enjoyable about working for Atlas VPN?
Two things: the people and the company. The team is excellent, from all the great minds to exchange ideas with to the banter over coffee. Second: it’s best summed up in waking up to people on social media joking about bankrupting the company I work for because they are doubling the donations for Ukraine. Though I would not know the last thing about repurposing my skills to do humanitarian work, I do feel good about working for a company that actually puts money into that, not just a flag on a logo.
Are there any design-related hobbies or activities that you enjoy outside of work?
I like to paint, design and make clothes and read a lot.
What about hobbies that are not related to design?
I dance and teach Argentinian Tango in my free time.
What are some of the books or movies that have had an impact on you?
For movies, I’m going to go with The Fall by Tarsem Singh. For books, Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, the Silo series by Hugh Howie, The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin, and anything and everything Discworld.
Finally, what’s the best holiday you’ve ever had?
In 2019 I did the Camino de Santiago, which is a network of pilgrimage routes leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. I’m not sure it counts as a holiday since I was pretty exhausted for six weeks and about 1000 kilometers of walking, but it was an extraordinary experience.